After a month of November Test action, the world's stars return to club matters this weekend with the Heineken Cup leaving no space for rest in the rugby calendar.
Thus far in the European tournament, Leinster, Toulouse and Ulster have all stood out against the opposition, taking a leading stance in their respective pools. However, the trio face a stern examination of their mettle this weekend.
Read on for a full prediction of how Round Three of the Heineken Cup group campaign will pan out, as well as a preview of its highlight encounters.
|Castres vs. Ospreys||Dec. 6||N/A||8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||15-10|
|Cardiff Blues vs. Glasgow Warriors||Dec. 6||SkyGo app||8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||24-22|
|Zebre vs. Saracens||Dec. 7||N/A||1:35 p.m. GMT/8:35 a.m. ET||18-30|
|Exeter Chiefs vs. Toulon||Dec. 7||SkyGo app||1:35 p.m. GMT/8:35 a.m. ET||24-34|
|Clermont Auvergne vs. Scarlets||Dec. 7||N/A||1:35 p.m. GMT/8:35 a.m. ET||28-20|
|Racing Metro vs. Harlequins||Dec. 7||SkyGo app||3:40 p.m. GMT/10:40 a.m. ET||27-14|
|Northampton Saints vs. Leinster||Dec. 7||SkyGo app||6 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET||22-18|
|Ulster vs. Benetton Treviso||Dec. 7||N/A||6 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET||34-12|
|Munster vs. Perpignan||Dec. 8||SkyGo app||12:45 p.m. GMT/7:45 a.m. ET||32-22|
|Edinburgh vs. Gloucester||Dec. 8||N/A||1 p.m. GMT/8 a.m. ET||22-14|
|Leicester vs. Montpellier||Dec. 8||SkyGo app||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||17-13|
|Toulouse vs. Connacht||Dec. 8||N/A||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||34-11|
Northampton Saints vs. Leinster
Leinster have opened up their 2013/14 Heineken Cup campaign with a spotless record, winning their first two games of the European season and climbing to the top of Pool 1.
However, Matt O'Connor's side face what will be the most testing period of their group phase, with back-to-back fixtures scheduled against Jim Mallinder's Northampton Saints.
Speaking ahead of the encounter, per the league's official website, Saints star and Aviva Premiership October Player of the Month Samu Manoa commented on his team's weekend encounter at Franklin's Gardens, saying:
We will worry about Leinster when Leinster come. It is massive for the club and for us boys. We were upset about how it turned out last year.
They have got a good squad and we have got a good squad too, so there is going to be a clash.
Both clubs are giants in their respective domestic divisions and the fine turf of Northampton has been a tough venue for teams to travel to of late, in a fixture that the home side have no choice but to win if they're to keep their visitors within reach.
Prediction: Northampton Saints 22-18 Leinster
Racing Metro vs. Harlequins
Mike Phillips was announced as Racing Metro's latest signing, per the club's official website this week, handing the Top 14 giants a huge boost heading into their next Heineken Cup outing.
It's very possible that the scrum-half, axed from his Bayonne contract earlier this season, could give his new French employers an immediate boost against Harlequins.
Two bonus points have been Quins' only comfort in what's been a miserable season in Europe so far, and it's unlikely that the term will be turned around at Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir.
Prediction: Racing Metro 27-14 Harlequins
Munster vs. Perpignan
Pool 6 remains an incredibly tight affair this season with just two points separating first-place Perpignan from fourth-place Gloucester.
Munster fall in between those two but can take a controlling stake in the group should they turn the French club over in what will be the first of two fixtures between the two in the space of seven days.
It's another reunion for Lifeimi Mafi, the former Thomond Park fan favourite who now travels back to his old Irish stomping ground, this time with the intent of pursuing Munster's downfall.
However, the ground has been difficult to take points away from this campaign and Peter O'Mahony has led his team to an unbeaten home season so far, which won't be broken up this weekend.
Prediction: Munster 32-22 Perpignan